By: Hamid Mir
This is an old debate which has resurfaced with a new angle in new Pakistan. Masses are unaware of it, as this debate is limited to power corridors. Following the recent tensions with India, Prime Minister Imran Khan had taken some measures, which were drawing appreciation not only at home, but also in India, since these had improved Pakistans image abroad.
Pakistan is not only facing conspiracies from India, but also from several other countries, with Israel being a top conspirator. Since the Feb 26 Indian Airforce attack on Jabba, near Balakot, reports had been circulating in the international media that New Delhi had used Israeli-made weapons in the assault. Credible sources have disclosed that India, with the help & backing of Israel had planned a massive attack on Pakistan from Rajasthan. However, due to timely intelligence, Pakistan made it clear to India that a befitting response would be given if it were to go ahead with the planned attack. Thus, the Indian attack was averted.
In the backdrop of this anti-Pakistan alliance, for the last few days Imran Khan is being advised to establish diplomatic ties with Tel Aviv, with the aim of breaking the India-Israel nexus. The prime minister was given this suggestion even before the Feb 26 Indian attack and thereafter too. Those who are proposing this idea are of the view that if the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) representatives can hold talks with Israel, and Egypt, Jordan and Turkey can establish diplomatic ties with Tel Aviv, then why cant Pakistan set up diplomatic relations with the Jewish state? Such a move would result in breaking the India-Israel nexus and will be more beneficial to Pakistans interests than Israel, making Imran Khan a hero in the entire west by just hinting at accepting the suggestion. However, the prime ministers simple reply was my heart does not accept this. Those whore advocating this course say that PM Imran should listen to his mind and not heart. But, Imran Khan says he cannot endorse the Israeli cruelty against Palestinians.
I have no doubt at all on the intentions of all those who have given this idea to the PM, but my heart felt satisfaction finding out PMs response and knowing that he is not a politician who succumbs to pressure and falls prey to fear. In the past I have criticised Imran Khans politics of U-turns, but I am hopeful that he wont take a U-turn on the issue of Israel since the matter is more complex than the last time it was brought up to any other Pakistani leader.
This debate was first initiated during Gen Zias era, when the US had taken the services of Pakistan as well as Israel in its Operation Cyclone to provide weapons to Mujahideen (Afghan freedom fighters) for putting up a resistance against the Russian forces in Afghanistan. Later, when Benazir Bhutto came into power in 1988 she was advised by a government official to open a dialogue channel with Israel. BBs then adviser, late Naseerullah Khan Babar, could smell a conspiracy from this suggestion and the said government official was sacked from his post. The same official played a key role together with President Ghulam Ishaq Khan in dislodging Benazir Bhuttos government, in 1990. The idea of engaging Israel was also given to Nawaz Sharif when he assumed the PMs office. In 1993 when Benazir Bhutto again came into power she was offered that Pakistans all external loans would be waived if Israel is recognised.
In 1994, during a meeting with late Yasir Arafat in Geneva, BB shared with him a narrative that if PLO can hold talks with Israel then why cant Pakistan maintain contacts with Tel Aviv? To which, Arafat got agitated and said in a choked voice: We are forced to hold dialogue with Israel, Israel is not willing to act upon the UN resolutions while trying to make us slaves through talks. If Pakistan accepts Israel then we would lose all grounds to even hold talks. On the very next day of this meeting, I interviewed then Israeli foreign minister Shimon Peres in Davos, during which he shared his wish of being friends with Pakistan. However, the BB government put a brake on this matter.
The full-fledge, open efforts to start diplomatic ties Israel began during Gen Musharrafs era, against which the only resistance came from the Parliament of the time in the form of Parliamentary protests. If such efforts were ever made by Nawaz Sharif or Benazir Bhutto, they would have been declared traitors & infidels, worthy of being killed, but no one issued any such certificate to Gen Musharraf. It may be mentioned here that Imran Khan and all other Pakistanis who oppose friendly relations with Israel are not against developing ties with the Jewish people because many Jews also criticise their governments anti-Palestine policies.
Just like Indias reluctance to honour UN resolutions on Kashmir issue, Israel recently declared Al-Quds (Jerusalem) as its capital, instead of Tel Aviv, which is a clear violation of UN resolutions on the conflict. The US accepted this move, shifting its embassy to Jerusalem, should Pakistan also set up its embassy there? Will our position on Kashmir become stronger or weaker after recognising Israel? We celebrate Pakistan Day on 23rd March every year. In 1940, on that day, the All India Muslim League passed a resolution in favour of Palestinian Muslims. In 1945, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah in a public meeting in Bombay raised slogans of Shame, Shame against the then US President Harry S. Truman, suggesting that Truman settle the 1 million displaced Jews in the US instead of Palestine. Later in 1947, Israeli PM David Ben-Gurion sent a telegram to Quaid-e-Azam, requesting him to recognise the newly established Jewish state of Israel, but Pakistan opposed creation of Israel in the UN.
All Muslim countries who have ignored their publics opinion and accepted Israel, have seen extremism rise in their countries. Turkey developed ties with Israel in 1949, but now their relations are strained.
Whether Pakistan should accept Israel or not, should not only be seen in the context of breaking Israel-India alliance, but also in the light of Quaid-e-Azams view on the Palestinian issue. There is a very close link between Palestine and Kashmir. Parliament has to make a decision on establishing relations with Israel and not Imran Khan or his heart, so a debate should be held in an open session of the Parliament, rather than clandestinely behind closed-doors. We should not live under the illusion that conspiracies against Pakistan will cease after acceptance of Israel, but in fact they would continue because Israel can only befriend a nuclear technology free Pakistan and our nuclear program is its actual target.